16 Sep

Choice-supportive bias

So you think you’re in control?

This is the tendency, after we have made a decision, to ascribe to the circumstances of that decision positive attributes that were not present at the time. We bolster our confidence in having made the right decision by adding ‘more good reasons’ that demonstrate why the option chosen was the best one.

Having convinced ourselves of having made the right choice, we commit this to memory and use it to influence future actions of a similar nature. We write our own script.

Justifying our actions has important emotional reasons underpinning it: we like to feel we are competent and know what’s going on, and that we are accepted by others. It becomes harder to criticise behaviours that increase our feelings of security in those respects. We do things that make us feel good, and then we risk feeling bad because we realise that our choice was not that good. To avoid this pain, we add more ‘evidence’ to support our beliefs and actions.

To lessen this effect, it’s important to have an equally powerful and factual counter-argument that can be consciously played out. We owe it to ourselves to hear both sides of our own arguments.